New Clause 18 — Demonstrating without authorisation in designated area

Part of Orders of the Day — Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill — [1st Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 7th February 2005.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:45 pm, 7th February 2005

Mr. Grieve said that all our amendments were redundant, but he is not entirely right. My amendment No. 1 is far from redundant—in fact, it has been signed by the Secretary of State. It seeks to remove the previous clause. As I said in Committee, that clause needed to be removed because it was "bonkers". It gave the power to a police officer of no higher rank than that of constable to determine that the appearance of a person in Parliament square was to the visual detriment of the square—in other words, that he looked untidy or a bit scruffy, or looked as though he should not be there. On the basis of that decision, the police officer could apply an order to that person to leave not only Parliament square but an area of 1 km surrounding the square. That person would have no capacity to challenge that order and could be excluded from an area running from north of Trafalgar square down to Millbank—I do not know why anyone would want to demonstrate down there—and across to Buckingham palace or over to Waterloo station. If he had the misfortune to want to catch a train home from Waterloo International, Victoria or Charing Cross, he would be out of luck, because he would be excluded on the say-so of a single constable. If ever there was an overreaction to a minimal disruption, this was it. That is why the Government were entirely right to withdraw their amendment, but what they have put in its place is very little better.